As the Trading Deadline Looms

The deadline for Major League Baseball trading, without submitting players to the waiver process, is at 4 p.m. EST. All week long, teams have been rumored to be doing this and that but yesterday the dominoes started to fall.

The Florida/Los Angeles deal leaves me scratching my head. It seems to help Florida more than LA, although the west coast team did upgrade catchers by acquiring Charles Johnson. We’ll see how this plays out since LA is fighting for the lead and Florida still has hopes.

As do the Mets. The NL East is the weakest division in baseball this season, a surprise considering how much work the Phillies did in the off-season. No one really wants the lead but the Braves seem ready to settle in atop the division and fight off all comers. Oddly, they have, on paper, a pretty mediocre team.

As do the Mets. It’s aging and can’t play consistently. The upgrade at the coahcing level (pitching coach Rick Peterson and hitting coach Don Baylor) may indicate a brighter future but not today. Obviously, the management thinks otherwise and pulled the trigger twice in succession yesterday around 5:15 p.m.

So, let’s look at what they did. 3B David Wright played his way into a starting role now, and that made Ty Wigginton expendable. He’s young, inexpensive and is a contact hitter with a great playing ethic. He’s a starter and shouldn’t be a utility bench player. They already have Joe McEwing for that (and he’s become the forgotten man this season). If Wright falters, they still have Todd Zeile, doing a fine job in what is likely his last season in the game.

This meant the Mets could dangle a bonifide starter plus prospects to upgrade pithcing. Fans can tell you that the last few weeks has proven the need to upgrade the bullpen but management’s thinking clearly was to upgrade the starting rotation, make it a little younger and hopefully not need the bullpen as often.

To acquire Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson, the Mets gave away not only Wigginton, but top prospects including Scott Kazmir and Matt Peterson. Rick Peterson thinks he can make these guys even better pitchers than they are and if he’s right, the Mets are in good shape for the next few years. I suspect the ownership is worried about promising pitchers proving to be busts. After all, they got badly burned when the trio of Bill Pulsipher, Paul Wilson and Jason Isringhausen made it to the majors and underperformed so badly the team looked foolish promoting them. (Pulsipher still pitches, but the for the Long Island Ducks in the Atlantic League while Wilson has finally found some luck with the Reds and Isringhausen found new life as a closer in St. Louis.)

The Mets want to challenge for the division. Not the Wild Card. And that’s commendable. But, they have mortgaged a bit of the future for today and just because the bullpen is in better shape doesn’t mean the hitters will be any better at driving in men in scoring position. The team rolled the dice and may roll it again before today is out. Right now, they seem a stronger, more balanced team but it’s how they perform on the field that will tell the tale.

One final thought: Justin Huber, a well regarded catching prospect, was also dealt away. This basically means Jason Phillips and Vance Wilson have job security for a while longer. If either really hit well, it would encourage me to once more call for Mike Pizza to be sent away. He’s no longer the team leader he was, no longer the threat at the plate he was and costs the team too much money for the stats he’s posted this year.